Laying the groundwork for filing legal action against fellow judges if they oust her as presiding judge, embattled Los Angeles Municipal Judge Maxine F. Thomas demanded Tuesday that a recall election set for today be postponed until late July.
In a letter from her attorney to the court's 80 judges, Thomas charged that an immediate recall vote would "constitute arbitrary, prejudicial and discriminatory action," because she has not been given a list of specific reasons why she should be removed.
"Certainly legal action is something I would explore with Judge Thomas (if she is ousted)," attorney Godfrey Isaac said of his client. "If there is (a vote today), it would be a deprivation of her rights."
Several critics of Thomas, however, maintained that the presiding judge, who assumed the post in January, was seeking to intimidate her fellow judges by threatening a court suit, and they predicted that the recall vote would nonetheless take place today.
"This is a not an impeachment proceeding, it's a recall, and I don't see anything in the rules that would require a specification of charges," said one Municipal Court judge, who asked to remain anonymous.
In her attorney's letter, Thomas requested that the recall hearing be continued to July 23. Critics noted, however, that many judges will be out of town on that date, attending a judges conference in Berkeley.
"I don't think that's accidental," said one anti-Thomas jurist, noting that in order for the recall to prove successful, at least 41 of the 80 judges must vote against Thomas.
Thomas said late Tuesday afternoon that she would be willing to discuss alternate dates for the hearing with her opponents.
Thomas, 39, has been under fire in recent months from fellow jurists for allegedly using her position as presiding judge to enhance her current bid for election to Superior Court.
Rated "not qualified" for the Superior Court post by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., Thomas has also been accused by fellow judges of neglecting her duties to pursue her election campaign.
Last week, court officials were presented with a petition signed by 42 of the court's 80 judges requesting that a recall election be held this afternoon. If the recall effort proves successful, Thomas would be removed from her one-year post as presiding judge but would retain her position on the bench.
According to Isaac, potential lawsuits would likely be filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.